The Federation Press

Reminiscences of a Colonial Judge

James Sheen Dowling


Written in 1890, James Sheen Dowling’s Reminiscences provide unpretentious glimpses of middle-class life in 19th-century New South Wales. They are an entertaining, valuable and occasionally humorous record of our colonial past.

Migrating here in 1828 when his father was appointed a judge in New South Wales, James Sheen Dowling went to school in Sydney and paints vivd pictures of life in the city and suburbs in the 1830’s.

After a decade in England, he returned to practise as a barrister in 1845. He was appointed Police Magistrate of Sydney during the goldrush, promoted to Crown Prosecutor of the colony, and then to District Court judge in 1859.

For the next 30 years, he intersped life in Sydney with regular tours of New South Wales on circuit. Occasionally, there are trips overseas. He writes in unaffected, entertaining fashion of the many places he visited and people he met.

He gives first-hand accounts of ceremonial events, such as his father’s opening of the first Circuit Courts at Maitland and Norflk Island, and historical curiosities such as the abortive colony of North Australia, and includes biographical portraits of several leading figures.

Of interest...